Reaching the millennial student: Comparative analysis of team-based learning student outcomes over traditional lecture/test instructional methods

Presented by: Natalie Ellis

Seeking ways to connect with higher education’s millennial generation prompted an in-depth search for learning instruction that would serve to create a maximized classroom potential. The central research question is do student assessment scores improve with team based learning instructional practices relative to instruction provided in a typical lecture and test strategy? Comparing learning assessment outcomes of an identical class while using two different teaching strategies of traditional and team-based practices in the two concurrent years of 2014 and 2015, evaluation outcomes are considered as they apply to the base class’s millennial generation (Huggins & Stamatel, 2015). Today’s dilemma of encouraging students to read and be prepared for class aren’t being met and there was a clear need to pursue alternate strategies. While the team-based learning instruction style created in the early 2000’s is not a new pedagogy it seeks to advance student preparation and provide classroom interchange reinforcement leading to higher order learning synthesis. A comparative study involving multiple student groups over the course of one year are at focus with assessment outcomes being evaluated. (Davidson, Major, & Michaelsen, 2014). The analysis considers if student-learning outcomes improve in the latter and will they be able to contribute to future course process development and quasi-design research. The point of connection held for team-based learning is understanding generational influences. Currently, there are approximately six different generational groups living in a global community that embody different learning styles dependent on the cultural context and their times settings according to the 2014 U.S. Census Bureau (Bureau, 2014). Considering typical college entry points and subsequent college rank levels, today’s classes are comprised of those ranging in age from 17 or 18 and above placing generational categories firmly as those born in the 1980’s and 1990’s. While obviously there remain students coming back to campus from all generations, the research study within this work is focusing upon the millennial generation and their learning influences (Frame & Cailor, 2015). The millennial has distinctive hallmarks of being multi-tasking individuals that are comfortable in an electronic world and that prefer learning in a relaxed team environment. While these characteristics might be considered stereotypical, the connection can be considerable when contemplating different pedagogies that ultimately focus upon the highest classroom learning outcomes possible. While the baby boomers responded well to the traditional lecture and test method, reaching a group of people that value content over grades and working in a multi-functional environment, the pedagogy of team-based learning seems ideal. Team-based learning ideally connects with primary millennial learning characteristics. Thus, the purpose of this paper is to identify (a) assessment value differences between traditional and team based learning instruction; (b) explore student evaluation comments in end of semester findings; and (c) discuss the operational challenges and opportunities of team-based learning. A total of 28 students from the first fall with an additional 33 students will be participating in the pilot course development and will be the study’s focus and analysis.


  • Bureau, U. C. (2014, December 04). New census bureau statistics show how young adults today compare with previous generations in neighborhoods nationwide. Retrieved 09 13, 2015, from U.S. Census Bureau:
  • Davidson, N., Major, C., & Michaelsen, L. (2014). Team based learning practices and principles in comparison with cooperative learning and problem based learning. Journal on Excellence in College Teaching.
  • Frame, T. R., & Cailor, S. M. (2015). Student perceptions of team-based learning vs lecture-based learning. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 79.
  • Huggins, C. M., & Stamatel, J. P. (2015). An exploratory study comparing the effectiveness of lecturing versus team-based learning. Teaching Sociology, 227-235. doi:10.1177/0092055X15581929
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